The Soviet Union

Few people realize the loss to humanity represented by the fall of the Soviet Union. In the past few decades some of the most successful achievements in the realm of physics have come out of the Soviet Union. They have consistently maintained an impressive record in the field of advanced theoretical particle physics. Since 1958 seven Soviet physicists have received the Nobel prize in physics.

One of the most prominent Soviet physicists was Yakov B. Zel'dovich who was a professor of astrophysics at Moscow University and director of the theoretical group at the Institute of Physical Problems at Moscow. Zel'dovich was a member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences and a foreign member of both the Royal Society of London and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Zel'dovich was one of those who first theorized the existence of the microwave background radiation of the Universe. He carried out the calculation that showed that in order to explain the observed abundances of hydrogen, helium, and deuterium in the Universe, it must have started in a hot Big Bang and have a temperature of a few K today. Another Soviet researcher, Yu N. Smirnov calculated a background temperature in the range of 1 to 30 K and jumping off of Smirnov's calculations, A.G. Dorshkevich and I. D. Novikov wrote a paper discussing the implications of various existing radio astronomy measurements in terms of microwave background. They concluded that the best antennae in the world for a search for this radiation was the Bell Lab antennae at Crawford Hill, and they suggested that it be used for this purpose. The background radiation was detected with this antennae. This was a monumental discovery of profound importance. This provided physical proof of the Big Bang.

Later in his life, Yakov Zel'dovich was deeply involved in formulating theories to explain grandscale structure. He, along with Joseph Silk and Alexander Szalay, derived a possible explanation for the structure of filaments and voids that characterize the Universe on the grandscale. They described how the earliest fluctuations in the density of matter in the early Universe could have eventually led to structures comparable to what is observed. Fluctuations undetectable became detectable later on because they began to be encompassed by the observer's ever-expanding horizon. Once a fluctuation is within an observer's horizon, it takes the form of an observable perturbation in the density of matter. Pressure can not resist the collapse, so that particles are attracted to the regions of highest density. Once gravitational collapse begins, the accreted mass can attract more distant mass and radiation, and so any initial instability is amplified. Complex computer simulations were carried out illustrating how various variations of this theory predict the over-all structure of the Universe.

Large scale structure in the Universe was determined by inhomogeneties in the early Universe. The predicted shape for the spectrum of inhomogenties is essentially self- invariant, meaning the magnitude of the inhomogeneities is approximately equal on all length scales of astrophysical significance. It turns out a spectrum of precisely this shape was proposed in the early 1970's by Zel'dovich and independently by Edward Harrison in Massachusetts. Today this is known as the Harrison-Zel'dovich spectrum. Zel'dovich also devised a semianalytical treatment for mildly nonlinear evolution of perturbations in Newtonian theory known as the Zel'dovich approximation. The Zel'dovich approximation is highly celebrated and the evolution of each fluid element is completely determined by the local initial conditions and can be independently followed up to time when it enters a multistream region.

Doubtlessly, one of the greatest physicists currently alive is Andrei Linde of the Lebedeu Physical Institute in Moscow. He worked on models of inflationary cosmology. Recently, he investigated various problems related to the theory of the electroweak phase transition, including determination of the nature of the phase transition , discussion of the possible rate of higher-order radiative corrections, and the theory of the formation of evolution of bubbles of the new phase. The possibility of strong baryon number violations during the electroweak phase transition was pointed out 15 years ago by Andrei Linde. Then in genuinely ground-breaking paper in 1985 by V. A. Kuzmin, V. A. Rubarkov, and M. E. Shaposhnikov, it was shown that such processes do actually occur and may erase all previously generated baryon asymmetry in the Universe. Later, Shaposhnikov argued that the phase transition was more strongly first order than expected. Andrei's son Dmitri Linde is also involved in physics. In 1990 Andrei Linde wrote a book titled "Particle Physics and Inflationary Cosmology".

The Soviets have traditionally been deeply involved in every aspect of astrophysics, cosmology, and particle physics. Many Soviet physicists are renown throughout the world for their achievements and many theories and discoveries which lay the foundations of modern physics were originally made by the Soviets. The maser was first developed by a Soviet team in the late 1940's. Andrei Linde devised a new way of viewing the early Universe in terms of symmetry breaking especially involving Higgs fields. Andrei Sakharov set down the underlying principles that must apply to any process that could produce a predominance of matter over antimatter in the early Universe, basically that there must exist processes that produce baryons out of nonbaryons, these baryon interactions must violate both C and CP symmetry, and that the Universe must evolve from a stable state of thermal equilibrium to a state of disequilibrium. If anything, Sakharov's fame as a dissident has obscured the fact he was one of the most brilliant physicists of his generation. Alexander Vlenkin thought up the unusual idea that the Universe itself was a vacuum fluctuation. Lev D. Landau received the Nobel prize in physics in 1962 for his theories about condensed matter. Piotr L. Kapitsa received the Nobel prize in 1978 for discoveries and inventions in low temperature physics.

Valentin Lubimov and Ergeny Tretykov claim to have measured the mass of the neutrino to be between 14 and 46 ev, although this appears to be out of step with findings from other teams. It was Semyon Gershtein of the Serukov Institute of Physics along with Zel'dovich who speculated that massive neutrinos could make a dominant contribution to the mass and evolution of the Universe as a whole. Fluctuations in the density of mass and energy in the early Universe cause fluctuations in the gravitational field, which is equivalent to a fluctuation in the curvature of space-time. The comprehensive theory of such fluctuations in the expanding Universe, treated in the framework of general relativity, was developed in 1946 by Eugene M. Lifshitz of the Institute for Physical Problems in Moscow. The famous Cerenkov Effect was discovered by Pavel A. Carenkov. Alexander M. Polyakov of the Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics near Moscow found a certain class of theories of elementary particle interactions that not only allow magnetic monopoles but also demand them. Samuilovich I. Shklovskii proposed that the radio and X-ray emissions from the Crab nebula was synchrotron radiation and predicted that OH would radiate at microwave frequencies.

The scientific institutions within the Soviet Union were renown throughout the world for revolutionary and monumental theories and discoveries. In fields of pure physics the achievements of the Soviet Union have were unequaled. However, they were also among the foremost leaders in the fields of technology, including superconductivity and solid-state physics. In the 21st Century, the greatest advancement in technology to take place will be the advent of controlled fusion. This will revolutionize human society more than anything else since we first harnessed electricity. There will essentially be completely free limitless sources of energy that will fundamentally alter the nature of global society. It was the Soviets who first thought up the idea of controlled fusion and figured out how it was that we might achieve this. The vast majority of the successes in the field of controlled fusion have come out of the Soviet Union. In fusion, the kinetic energy of the molecules must be greater than the binding energy of the resulting molecule. You thus need high temperature (T), long confinement time (t), and high particle density (n). Roughly, the product of t and n must be greater than 1020 for fusion to occur, or tn > 1020. One way to achieve this is with high particle density and short confinement time. This is the purpose of laser fusion which is tentative at this stage. The more common way is with low particle densities and long confinement times. This is achieved in a tokamak and its full success will be one of the greatest achievements of the 21st Century. The tokamak was invented and developed in the Soviet Union. The word "tokamak" is a Russian acronym for "torodial magnetic chamber". Up until recently, there only existed one nation in the world to have succeeded in achieving the all-important tn > 1020 lawson criterion and that was the nation that originally invented the tokamak: the USSR. This was the crucial breakeven threshold and the achievement of it was as great an accomplishment as the development of the tokamak itself.

The Soviet Union was probably the leader in the world in the field of planetary exploration and unmanned space probes. Only two nations have ever launched space probes to other planets: the United States and the Soviet Union. In my opinion, the record of the Soviet Union in the field of unmanned spaceflight is more impressive than that of the United States. In the very beginning, the Soviet space program was ahead of that of the United States. The Soviets put the first man-made object into Earth orbit. Sputnik 1 was launched on Oct 4, 1957. This great event symbolized the beginning of human conquest of space. Unfortunately, the United Sates had considerable difficulty repeating this. After several failures, the United States launched the first American satellite, Explorer 1, on Jan 31, 1958. By that time, the Soviets had succeeded in launching a second satellite, Sputnik 2, and on that mission, carried a dog into space. In many ways, the Soviets always maintained a slight edge above the Americans in terms of unmanned space probes. The Soviets launched far more space probes for the purpose of exploration than the United States.

The first space probe launched for the purpose of scientific study of another world was launched by the Soviet Union: Luna 2 to the Moon in 1959. As of 1972 the Soviet Union had launched 27 probes to study other worlds while the United States had launched only 18 probes. As of 1987, the Soviet Union had launched 34 major probes while the U.S. had launched only 22 major probes. In the late 1960's, much of what was known of Mars and Venus was learned from Soviet probes. As of 1975, both nations had sent eight probes each to Mars. The Soviets launched Mars 1 (1962), Zond 2 (1964), Mars 2 (1971), Mars 3 (1973), Mars 4 (1973) and Mars 5 (1973). The Americans launched Mariner 3 (1964), Mariner 4 (1964), Mariner 6 (1969), Mariner 7 (1969), Mariner 8 (1971), Mariner 9 (1971), Viking 1 (1975), and Viking 2 (1975). In more recent years. the Soviets sent the Phobos probes and we sent the Mars Observer, and all of these probes malfunctioned due to computer error. The first object ever sent to Mars by humans was sent by the Soviet Union: Mars 1 in 1962. Since both nations sent the same number of probes to Mars, it would seem that both nations are equally successful in terms of studying Mars.

The same can not be said for attempts to study Venus. As of 1975, the Soviet Union had sent no fewer than eleven probes to Venus while the United states sent only three probes to Venus. Therefore, the Soviet Union had sent eight more probes to Venus than the U.S. The Soviets sent a couple more probes to Venus in the following years. The Soviet probes to Venus were very successful and the results were impressive. The Soviets were the first to succeed at a soft landing of Venus. Not only that, but they're the only nation to have ever succeeded at a soft landing of Venus. They sent Viking-style landers to Venus and performed remote control soil sample analysis. (Venera 8 in 1972) In 1975 they launched Venera 9 and Venera 10 which succeeded in soft landing and transmitting back photographs of the surface. For some reason, Americans are far more familiar with the photographs of the Martian surface taken by Viking 1 and 2 than with the photographs of the Venusian surface taken by Venera 9 and 10. Most people don't even know what the surface of Venus looks like. The Soviets also did a radar map of Venus with Venera 15 in 1983, which was the first radar mapping of another world.

Usually, the most advanced type of space probe, or the probe that allows you to learn the most about a single world, are soft-landers like the Vikings. These probes allow you to take samples of the soil and perform rigorous tests. One drawback is you can only perform tests and take pictures of the immediate vicinity. For instance, on Mars we only have pictures from the surface at two relatively dull locations. One way to get around this is with rovers. Rovers are probes that land at one location and then under their own power, can travel great distances across the surface, and can perform tests at a variety of locations. The only nation to have employed rovers is the Soviet Union. The first rover on another world was Luna17 in 1970. The Lunkhod rovers explored the Moon. They also put a short-range rover on Mars in 1971. The probes Mars 2 and Mars 3 carried rovers. Unfortunately, there happened to be large dust storms going on at the landing sites, and Mars 2 crashed into the planet and Mars3 ceased to function shortly after it landed. Still. Mars 2 was the first man-made object on Mars and Mars 3 included the first and only rover to operate on Mars.

The Soviet Union's record as leader in planetary probes is not merely historical in nature. In its final years, the Soviet Union maintained an aggressive program of planetary exploration. The Soviet Union devised a vast array of impressively advanced probes. Among the most complicated and technologically advanced space probes ever created are the Phobos probes. Probably Galileo is the only American probe of equal complexity. The two Phobos probes were new generation spacecraft having many exciting capabilities, such as dropping small landers to the surface. The Phobos cameras used charged coupled devices (CCDs) to generate images covering a much broader spectral range than previous spacecraft studying Mars. Some of the most spectacular results came from the Terostean instrument which examined the planet in the inferred. Also, the Phobos spacecraft included hoppers. Because of the ultralow gravity of Phobos, hopping was the best means of movement. The hopper, or Prop-F, was 40 kilograms and completely self-sufficient, with its own power supply, radio transmitter and receiver, event programmer, and an array of instruments. The hopper was to move by hops 10 to 40 meters long. After each hop, it would roll into its operating position and perform experiments.

Phobos 1 and 2 were launched in 1988. Phobos 1 ceased to function on route to Mars. Phobos 2 reached Mars, entered orbit, and took thousands of measurements and hundreds of pictures. Then they lost contact with it. This is similar to the misfortune we had with the Mars Observer. These malfunctions were probably the result of a combination of human and computer error. This is a risk you always run with very complicated spacecraft. The more complex a probe is, the more things there are that can go wrong with it. Ironically, the probes with the most powerful computers are most likely to ignore what you tell them or suddenly turn themselves off. The failure of Galileo, in contrast, was simply because they couldn't unfurl its antennae. The Soviets had planned two other advanced probes to Mars called Mars 94 and Mars 98, scheduled for launch in 1994 and 1998 respectively. The Mars 94 mission was going to include the Mars Balloon, surface penatrators, and small meteorological stations.

The two primary ways a probe can travel across the surface of a world is by rover and balloon. The only nation to have employed balloons to study other worlds is the Soviet Union, which used them to study Venus. In March 1986, engineers of the Babakin Center, which built the spacecraft for the planetary program of the USSR Academy of Sciences, requested that a balloon be included in the Mars 94 mission as a follow-up to their successful use of balloons in the Venusian atmosphere. There would have been a 15 kilogram gondola, carried aloft by a balloon thats volume when inflated would be several thousand cubic meters. Hanging below would be a 100 meter long 13.5 kilogram guide- rope that only touches the ground at night. The guide-rope would have carried scientific instruments to study the Martian surface, as well as providing stabilizing ballast. The Mars 98 mission would have carried a full rover called Marsokhod. It would have had a mass of 360 to 450 kilograms and would have been a wheel walker with a three-part confliguration and a hinged frame. Conical wheels would provide a continuos supporting surface for rover, even on terrain full of obstacles. The Mars Observer was trivial in comparison and failed anyway. The first spacecraft to encounter a comet was Vega 1 in 1986. The Soviet Union sent two probes to Halley's Comet, Vega 1 and Vega 2, both launched in 1984. The U.S. sent no probes to Halley's Comet.

With the exception of the Apollo program, the American manned space program was inferior to that of the Soviet Union. It can be legitimately claimed that during the last two decades the only truly spacefaring nation was the Soviet Union. The very first human in space was Yuri Gagarin who made one full orbit of the Earth in Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961. This was the very first time that a member of the species homo sapien traveled outside the confines of the Earth and its atmosphere. This was the first time we left the world on which we evolved. This would be the first of a long series of monumental milestones in manned spaceflight to be achieved by the Soviet Union.

In the very beginning, the Soviet manned space program was ahead of that of the United States. In 1961, the Soviets put the first man in space. In 1963, Tereshkova rode aboard Vostok 6 and became the first woman in space. The American space program was initially in disarray. Throughout 1958 and 1959, eight out of eleven Vanguard launches failed. Shepard became the first American in space in 1961. The first American to orbit the Earth was John Glenn in 1962, a year after the first man in space had orbited the Earth. The Soviet Union had been the leader not only merely in going into space, but in staying there. The Soviets maintained eight different space stations: seven different Saylut stations and Mir. The Americans have only ever had one space station, Skylab, which was briefly operational from May 14, 1973 to Feb 8, 1974. In contrast, the Soviets had spacestations in almost continual operation for nearly a 20 year period. The purpose of manned spaceflight is to maintain a human presence in space and the Soviets have achieved that.

The Saylut stations weighed about 18.5 tons. Crews were ferried up to Salyut by the Soyuz ferry craft. Saylut 1 was launched in 1971 and by 1982 seven had been in orbit. Starting with Salyut 6, an automated ferry called Progress, has carried supplies and fuel to Salyut, thus enabling crews to endure very long periods in space. Salyut 7 was still in orbit in 1987, although at that time it was being used in conjuction with the new Mir spacestation. The Soyuz spacecraft, Soyuz 1, was launched in 1967. The Soyuz consists of three principle sections: the orbital module, the descent vehicle, the only part that returns to Earth, and the Instrumental assembly Module, which includes the orbital propulsion system. The OM was used as an experimental, rest and sleeping area for the crew while in orbit. The DV provides accommodation for up to three cosmonauts during launch or descent. A more advanced version Soyuz -T was first launched in 1981. A more advanced version, Soyuz -TM, was first launched in 1986.

The Soyuz spacecraft was the workhorse of the Soviet manned space program. Its principle purpose is to transfer cosmonauts to and from the spacestations. The usual procedure for long a duration Salyut mission is as follows. The crew are taken to the spacestation in one Soyuz vehicle. At a later date, a visiting crew docks with Salyut and returns to Earth in the original Soyuz craft, leaving their Soyuz, with its fuel and supplies, docked for subsequent use by the future returning long-stay cosmonauts. The next generation of Soviet spacestations were to be assembled in orbit out of Salyut-sized units. The first experimental step in this direction was the linking of the module Cosmos 1267.

On February 19, 1986, the Soviet Union launched Mir. Mir is about 15 meters long, 14 meters wide, and weighs about 20 tons, so it's slightly larger than Saylut. Also similar to Saylut, it has front and rear docking ports. However, it also has four additional radial ports to which further units may be attached. Mir would provide the living quarters for an expanded station and has individual cubicles for each crew member. The Soviets attached to the four radial docking ports, "building block" modules dedicated to specific scientific disciplines. A large number of other modules would have been attached to the existing modules to form an ever-growing structure. This would have resulted in a spacestation of enormous size within which we would establish a permanent human presence in space. Mir would have been the first truly permanent spacestation. While the Sayluts were intended to be operational for a few years each, Mir would have remained operational and permanently manned indefinitely.

In 1980, the Soviet Union had had 49 manned launches and the United States had had 31 manned space launches, which was 18 less than the Soviet Union. In 1987, the Soviet Union had had 66 manned launches and the United States had had 54 manned launches, which was 12 less than the Soviet Union. Also, there are large gaps in time within which no Americans went into space. From 1963 to 1965, between Mercury and Gemini, no Americans went into space. From 1966 to 1968, between Gemini and Apollo, no Americans went into space. Between the Apollo-Soyuz mission, which ended July 24 1975, and the first launch of the space shuttle on April 12, 1981, not a single American went into space. Between the Challenger accident in 1986 and the resumption of the shuttle program in 1990, not a single American went into space. In contrast , the Soviet manned space program has no such gaps. They have maintained a manned presence in space more or less continually since Gagarin. The number of manhours in space achieved by the united States pales in comparison with that of the Soviet Union.

The USSR had an extensive array of launch vehicles, with the Titan-class Proton as their workhorse. In 1987, the Soviets added a giant launch vehicle, the Energia, which was used in late 1988 to launch the unpiloted first flight of their shuttle Buran. The Energia has a payload capacity of over 100 metric tons. This is staggering. There is no American analog. For a brief time, the U. S. had a heavy launch capability when we possessed the Saturn V. Since the end of Apollo however, the U. S. has lacked a heavy launch vehicle which would be crucial to achieving and maintaining a permanent presence in space and more ambitious projects.

In many ways, the Soviet space shuttle Buran was superior to the American space shuttle. More importantly, the Soviet space shuttle was only one part of their manned space flight program, whereas in the United States, the space shuttle was the entirety of our manned space flight program. Although the first orbital flight of Buran was unmanned, it demonstrated much promise. The autopilot that landed the shuttle was able to overcome a 34 mph crosswind to land within 5 feet of the runway center line. Also, of the 38,000 heat shield tiles that covered Buran, only 5 were missing. Despite the success of the test flight, after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Boris Yeltsin cancelled the Buran program due to lack of money. Since then, one of the Buran space shuttles was turned into a space-themed restaurant at Gorky Park in Moscow, and another one went on display for more than a year in Sydney, Australia during the time of the 2001 Summer Olympic Games. The largest airplane to have ever existed is the Antonov-225, or An-225, with six jet engines, built by the Soviet Union in 1988, for the purpose of transporting the Soviet space shuttle, the Buran. In fact, the An-225 is the heaviest object ever to leave the surface of the Earth and return, having a loaded weight 650 tons. Also, the largest helicopter to have ever existed is the Soviet Mi-12/V-12.

Aside from Energia and the Buran shuttle, the Soviets had several modules for Mir, including Soyuz, Progress, Kvant, and Kristall, the later two of which are science stations. There is also a docking module for coupling Buran and Mir. This means that a fully developed space-station complex built around the station already in orbit could have been operational by 1992. Mir 2 was also under development.

The secret of the USSR's space program is that they standardize hardware and procedures, their hardware is designed to nonsterile conditions, and they avoid the customizing of space vehicles so common in the U.S. NASA would have benefited from imitating these aspects of their program. The only major project by NASA since the conclusion of Apollo was the shuttle program. The American space shuttles are not worthy of the obsession of NASA. The efficiency of a launch vehicle is measured by the ratio of the maximum weight it can carry to orbit over the cost of the launch, measured in say pounds per dollar. For the shuttle, the cost of each launch is high enough, and the most they can carry is low enough, that the shuttles themselves are not cost-effective. Despite the cost of the shuttles themselves, you don't get much for it. However, the space shuttle is only thing NASA has done since the conclusion of Apollo, and the agency is obsessed with them. The Soviet shuttle was just one small part of their entire space program, not its centerpiece.

As of 1988, there had been 3091 successful space launches. 2106 were by the Soviet Union, 887 were by the United States, 36 were by Japan, 23 by the European Space Agency, 23 by China, and three by India. Therefore, 68% of all successful space launches were by the Soviet Union. What this means is that 68% of man-made objects to leave the Earth were Soviet. There have been 2.3 times as many successful space launches by the Soviet Union than by the United States.

Soviet space achievements don't get much press in the U.S. In 1984, when three cosmonauts achieved a record in long duration spaceflight by remaining in space for over 237 days, it was hardly mentioned on the news. Therefore, I'm going to list some of the achievements by the Soviet Union in space.

First artificial satellite of the Earth (Sputnik 1, 1957)

First animal in space (Sputnik 2, 1957)

First spacecraft to escape Earth's gravity (Luna 1, 1959)

First artificial planet of the Sun (Luna 1, 1959)

First spacecraft to impact another world (Luna 2, 1959)

First spacecraft to photograph the far side on the Moon (Luna 3, 1959)

First human in space (Vostok 1, 1961)

First human to orbit the Earth (Vostok 1, 1961)

First spacecraft to fly to other planets (Venera 1, 1961, Mars 1, 1962)

First woman in space (Vostok 6, 1963)

First multiperson space mission (Voskhod 1, 1964)

First spacewalk (Voskhod 2, 1965)

First entry into the atmosphere of another planet (Venera 3, 1966)

First spacecraft to orbit another world (Luna 9, 1966)

First robotic mission to return a sample from another world (Luna 16, 1970)

First roving vehicle on another world (Luna 17, 1970)

First soft landing on another planet (Mars 3, 1971)

First scientifically successful landing on another planet (Venera 15, 1983)

Then longest duration spaceflight, three cosmonauts for 237 days (Salyut 7, 1984)

First balloon payload to another world (Vega 1, 1985)

First cometary encounter (Vega 1, 1986)

First permanently inhabited spacestation (Mir, 1986)

This gives some sense as to the extent to which the Soviet Union had led the way for Humanity to break the shackles of our native Earth.

Soviet scientists and engineers stated that the purpose of their long duration flights in the Salyut and Mir space stations was to prepare for a manned flight to Mars. A description of Soviet preparation for a human Mars mission was presented by cosmonaut Vladimir Solovyov at a meeting of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Februrary 1988. On several occasions Gorbachev called for a joint U.S.-Soviet manned mission to Mars. On May 24, 1988 an article appeared in Pravda detailing the Soviet plan to get humans to Mars, co-authored by Soviet space pioneers V. Gluso, Y. Semenov, and L. Gorshkov. First there would have been robotic precursor flights in the 1990's, including rovers, balloons, and penetrators. Second, there would have been development of human flight systems and automatic sample return missions, in the first decade of the 21st Century. Lastly a piloted mission with a target date of perhaps 2010. The ship would be assembled in Earth orbit, built from several pieces, each launched separately on Energia. The initial mass would be about 800 metric tons. They planned for it to be a nuclear- electric vehicle. The Soviet Union would probably have landed humans on Mars around 2025. I don't believe that NASA, by itself, will ever be capable of putting humans on Mars.

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